As the preseason passes its' halfway point, the evolution of the Montreal Canadiens is well underway. With 26 players shipped to the St. John's IceCaps in the past 48 hours, the Habs' preseason roster is now exclusively home to those players who can stake a legitimate claim to the regular season roster.
With opportunities to impress passing quickly, each preseason game takes on more importance. Barring extenuating circumstances, at least one of Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, and Mark Barberio won't be with Montreal to start the year, amplifying the significance of each success and failure. Charles Hudon, meanwhile, will look to use tonight's game to strengthen his case toward what may only be one open forward position. Even Mike Condon, an ECHLer only two seasons ago, has played well enough to extend his competition with Dustin Tokarski through tonight's clash.
The annual exhibition event in Quebec City is most often the highlight of the preseason. With important decisions looming, this year's game is poised to be no exception.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|49.1||Score-Adjusted Corsi For %||53.1|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.11|
*All stats are from the 2014-15 regular season.
Know Your Enemy
If the Canadiens choose to rest some of their stars in order to better evaluate their other players, they may find that they have an opponent willing to do the same. Top forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel are all slated to sit out tonight's game, with the Penguins preparing to play again tomorrow night.
The Penguins are also playing another angle, giving their French Canadian players a chance to enjoy an experience that will remain unique until the Province of Quebec again boasts a second franchise. Of, the Penguins will still play some of their star power, with Quebec-born Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury set to take the ice tonight.
Finally, the Canadiens will have a familiar face wearing opposing colours, as Sergei Gonchar will act as a defensive depth and play the elder statesman for a very young preseason lineup. After playing with the veteran for much of last year, perhaps Nathan Beaulieu will even get a chance to show his old mentor how much he's learned first-hand.
Last Time Out
When the Canadiens last met the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were seeking a seeking a season series victory over their Pennsylvanian adversaries. While a Max Pacioretty snipe let the Habs strike first, the Canadiens were ultimately undone by match-ups and a dose of bad luck.
Pittsburgh's first goal came when Tom Gilbert, Alexei Emelin, and the all-AHL fourth line were left on to face Malkin. Then, in overtime, a broken stick left the Habs playing 2.5 v 4 in their own zone. With an effective cycle already in progress, it was only a matter of time before Crosby put the puck behind Carey Price.
With the Penguins choosing to ice a vanilla lineup with the regular season only 9 days away, the Canadiens won't have to deal with those two situations again. But with their own roster beginning to take shape, the Habs would do well to show some burgeoning chemistry this evening.